Posted June 7, 2020 at 4:01 PM by Amanda Frentz
The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.
Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature.
It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.
This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.
June 5, 2020 was World Environment Day. The website for this celebration shares the fact that we are on the verge of mass extinction as one million plant and animal species risk extinction, largely as a result of human activities. “If we continue on this path, biodiversity loss will have severe implications for humanity, including the collapse of food and health systems… If current trends continue, by 2050 the global urban population is estimated to be 6.3 billion, nearly doubling the 3.5 billion urban dwellers worldwide in 2010," writes the Convention on Biological Diversity in its report Cities and Biodiversity Outlook. "More than 60 percent of the area projected to be urban in 2030 has yet to be built. Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities." As we humans take over more of the Earth, biodiversity suffers.
“Reversing biodiversity loss is the only way to restore and sustain a healthy planet. This will only be possible when we understand the web of life in which we live and appreciate that it functions as a whole system. It is time to reimagine our relationship with nature and put nature at the heart of our decision-making.”
New Orleans is no exception to what is happening in cities around the world, and so City Park has recently been working on increasing the biodiversity of one area of the Park!
Have you noticed any changes at Big Lake?! The garden beds on what was called ‘The Louisiana Trail’ have been getting attention thanks to a new partnership between City Park, The Native Plant Initiative and The New Orleans Town Gardeners. The goal of the new ‘Big Lake Native Plant Trail’ is to demonstrate the benefits and beauty of native plants, and to increase biodiversity in the Park! Local native plants such as American beautyberry, coral bean, blue mistflower, purple coneflower, cardinal flower, and yaupon holly, among many others, have been added to provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
The world’s food web is built on the presence of native plants since insects depend on native plants as food sources and cannot thrive without them. Currently, 80-90% of our landscapes are composed of non-native plants which insects are unable to use, and since insects are a major food source for many other forms of wildlife including birds and many mammals, without a robust insect population, the food web deteriorates.
The monoculture created by turf grass and the foreign plants that make up most of our gardens takes the place of the native plant species that would naturally be there. Native plants evolved here in our climate and soils, so they are adapted to our weather extremes and perform better than plants from somewhere else. Many native plants can handle the wet soils, heavy rainfall and hot temperatures that are common here. They also have developed defenses against disease and insect pressures that exotic plants do not, therefore, they tend to require less herbicide, pesticide, fertilizers and less fussing over in general in comparison to non native plants.
There are many beautiful native plants that can provide greater interest and diversity in our gardens and landscapes, while also enhancing the biodiversity of our area. So, on this World Environment Day, take a moment to think about what you can do #fornature and biodiversity in our city. If you decide to add some natives to your yard, be sure to watch for plant sales at the Pelican Greenhouse at City Park- it’s a great source for local natives! Also, check out the schedule of what’s happening all over the world for World Environment Day (even if it's a few days late to celebrate on the actual day).
Environmental Program Manager